Ageing of Beef PrimeSafe Technical Guideline

This technical guideline explains ageing of beef processes and how to get approval from PrimeSafe to age beef.

December 2020
PN Number: PO5: 201709


  • This is a guideline only. Be sure to understand the standards referred to by this guideline.
  • The guideline describes dry and wet ageing processes and how they affect meat quality and safety.
  • Find out how to get approval to age beef and how to test your product.

Fresh unpackaged carcass and meat can be stored providing it remains wholesome, as indicated by the absence of dryness, discoloration, visible mould growth, sliminess or odour.

Meat stored for ageing purposes must be subjected to a controlled, documented and approved ageing procedure.

Ageing is the process during which microbes and enzymes act upon the meat to help breakdown the connective tissue to tenderise the meat. There are two ways ageing can be accomplished:

  • Wet ageing by placing beef in a plastic bag under vacuum; or
  • Dry ageing by storing beef in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment.

The main difference is that wet ageing results in little or no moisture loss, whereas dry ageing can result in up to 50% moisture loss. Product labelling should indicate the ageing processes used.

The quality of meat prior to ageing is critical. If meat of inferior microbiological quality is used, pathogens can grow quickly and produce harmful toxins that may not be destroyed during cooking. The microbiological quality of aged meat should be monitored by testing for pathogenic as well as spoilage bacteria. The microorganisms that must be tested by an approved laboratory are E. coli and Enterobacteriaceae. These are indicative of other pathogens that are likely to grow. Enterobacteriaceae is a group of bacteria including Salmonella, Shigella and Yersinia ranging in different pathogenicity.

Wholesomeness of meat

The quality and wholesomeness of meat for human consumption can be determined by basic observations of dryness, discoloration, visible mould growth, sliminess and odour. Meat processing facilities are required to comply with the requirements of Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (AS 4696) with regards to the management of wholesomeness.

When ageing meat for human consumption, licensees are required to have the following approved procedures in place:

  • A documented procedure that covers the ageing process.
  • Controls to ensure aged meat does not leave the premises unless it is wholesome and accurately defined in accordance with the relevant standard.
  • Controls to ensure aged meat not fit for human consumption is removed from the food chain and dealt with separately to other meat products.
  • Specifies how the aged meat has met the requirements of the relevant standard.
  • Implementation of a HACCP plan for each stage of production of aged meat.

Approval requirements

1. All PrimeSafe licensed businesses intending to manufacture dry aged beef for human consumption must:

  • Comply with the requirements of the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (AS 4696);
  • Inform PrimeSafe of their intent to commence producing dry aged meat; and
  • Provide proposed manufacturing procedures in their amended Food Safety Program for approval before starting to dry age beef.

2. If the Accepted Measures defined in this guideline are used, approval of a revised Food Safety Program for dry ageing of beef can be considered by the licensee’s approved Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) auditor.

3. If variation to the Accepted Measures in this guideline are proposed, the amended Food Safety Program must be submitted directly to PrimeSafe.

4. The following requirements must be considered in their application:

  • Changes to premises and the installation of equipment that complies with AS 4696 and the ability to facilitate the control of temperature, humidity and air velocity.
  • Changes to the Food Safety Program including an amended HACCP plan.
  • Documented procedures and validation records.
  • Segregation of dry aged meat from other meat products.
  • Accepted Measures of the ageing process.
  • The intended duration of the ageing period and testing of mould one week prior to completion of the ageing period.
  • Validation of the process by mould testing, if there is mould growth, then confirmation that it is Thamnidium mould.
  • Confirmation of product wholesomeness by shelf-life testing of trimmed meat for Enterobacteriaceae and E. coli at the end of the ageing period.

Accepted Measures

1. Premises and equipment must meet the requirements of the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (AS 4696) and be approved by a PrimeSafe inspector.

2. Dry ageing storage conditions:

  • Temperature: between – 0.5°C to 1°C (2°C to 3°C) may be used when only ageing for up to 3 weeks).
  • Relative Humidity: between 75% to 85%.
  • Air velocity: between 0.2 to 0.5 m/s.

3. Wet ageing storage conditions:

  • Storage below 5°C;
  • Validation testing that any mould is Thamnidium;
  • Shelf-life testing for Enterobacteriaceae and E. coli at the end of the ageing period.

Further Information

Dashdorj D., Tripathi V.K., Cho S., Kim Y. and Hwang Inho; Dry Aging of Beef; Review. Journal of Animal Science and Technology (2016) 58:20.

Jensen L. B. (1944), Microbiological Problems in the Preservation of Meats, Research Laboratories, Swift & Company, Chicago, Illinois.

Dillion, V. M. (1998). Yeasts and moulds associated with meat and meat products. The Microbiology of Meat and Poultry, 85-110.


This information is a guide only and must not be used in place of the current Standard. PrimeSafe does not guarantee its accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness, therefore it cannot be used to substitute for legal or professional advice. PrimeSafe accepts no legal liability arising from reliance on any part of this document.